The 2011 NFL season is scheduled to begin September 8th. However, with a possible lockout on the horizon, football fans are anxiously consulting their calendars in anticipation of a much more imminent date, March 12.
The collective bargaining agreement that league owners and the National Football League Players Association have had a in place for six years recently expired, and if the parties can’t agree to a new one by March 12, 2011, a lockout goes into effect.
Depending on how long it lasts, the lockout could result in cancelled games , or even threaten the entire season. It’s happened before -- professional sports leagues have experienced labor disputes, and apart from the financial havoc they caus e owners and players, the communities that host teams lose revenue . Worse, if the stoppage lasts long enough, an entire spectator sport can lose its fan base for years.
Click ahead to see the most notable lockouts and strikes in recent sports history.
By Daniel Bukszpan, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 8 Mar 2011
The 1972 Major League Baseball strike lasted from April 1 to April 13. It’s notable for two reasons: It was the first strike in the history of the league, and it won the players the right to salary arbitration, which ultimately became the sticking point of countless lockouts and strikes thereafter. In addition to salary arbitration, the players also received a $500,000 increase in their pension payments, just above half of what they had originally demanded.
The players won an important bargaining chip for themselves. But at the time the focus was simply on what had been lost during the strike: 86 games were missed and never rescheduled. And according to Time magazine, the players lost $1 million in pay and the owners lost $5 million in ticket sales and broadcast fees.
Pictured: Joe Torre #9 of the St. Louis Cardinals stands alongside Hank Aaron #44 of the Atlanta Braves before the MLB All Star Game at Fulton-County Stadium on July 25, 1972 in Atlanta, Georgia.
The 1981 Major League Baseball strike began on June 12. The issue was free agency, which had caused owners to offer lucrative contracts to star players in order to keep them. Owners decided they wanted to be compensated for players they lost to free agency, a move that would have cost the players considerable leverage. So rather than allow the owners to level the playing field, the players went on strike.
The dispute was resolved on July 31, 50 days after the strike was called. In the final tally, the season lost 713 games — and $150 million in broadcast revenue, concession sales, players’ salaries, and ticket sales were lost as well. However, even though the players called the strike, the owners got the blame, and the cover of the June 22, 1981 issue of Sports Illustrated featured the headline "Strike! The Walkout the Owners Provoked."
Pictured: Outfielder Reggie Jackson talks with entertainer Bob Hope, Cammissioner of Baseball Bowie Kuhn and vice president of the United States George H.W. Bush while he awaits an at bat in the on deck circle during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game game on August 9, 1981 in Cleveland, Ohio. The All-Star Game, which was originally scheduled to be held on July 14, served as a prelude to play resuming on August 10.
Days after the National Football League strike began, the September 27, 1982 cover of Sports Illustrated depicted a football, sitting deflated on an empty playing field, with a headline that read "PFFFFFFT!" It summed up the mood of the nation’s football fans as they endured a strike that dragged on for 57 days, cutting the season nearly in half.
The players, led by former Oakland Raider Gene Upshaw, had demanded free agency after three years in the league and a 55% share of broadcast revenue. Neither side got everything they wanted, but the owners agreed to an almost $2 billion increase in minimum salary, as well as increases in both veterans’ pay and severance pay. That was enough for the players to end their dispute, but by then seven weeks and seven of the season’s games had been cancelled.
Pictured: Oakland Raiders guard Gene Upshaw in 1981, prior to the NFL strike.
The NFL lockout of 1987 was almost a sequel to the 1982 strike. The 24-day work stoppage had recurring characters, with Gene Upshaw stepping up to the plate to represent the players again. It centered on the issue of free agency, which had remained unresolved since the previous strike. However, this time, the owners would not be chumped, and they had an ingenious plan to get around their striking players. They would use replacement players!
The effect was not the same. Fans expecting to see football’s greatest players were instead treated to the sight of unknown stand-ins, most of whom had been cut during training. But the gamble paid off, somewhat, since the 1987 season lost only one game. However, ABC reported that its first Monday Night Football broadcast with replacement players received the second-lowest rating in its 17-year history.
Pictured: Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins participates in the 1987 NFL Players Strike in September 1987 in Miami, Florida.
A week before the 1992 Stanley Cup playoffs were scheduled to begin, the National Hockey League Players’ Association voted 560-to-4 to reject a free agency and revenue sharing agreement by the owners that they found unacceptable. They decided to strike on April 1, the first time such a stoppage had occurred in the history of the NHL.
After 10 days of the strike, both sides agreed to an arrangement that included an expansion of the regular season from 80 to 84 games, an increase in playoff bonuses, and an increase in player control of image and likeness licensing. This allowed almost the entire regular season to resume, and everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. Unfortunately, the kumbaya moment was short-lived. The agreement was only good for two years, and when it expired, the same issues caused another stoppage in 1994.
Pictured: Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins waves to the crowd during the Stanley Cup Finals in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks in May 1992.
The National Hockey League Players’ Association agreed to end a strike in 1992 by signing off on a collective bargaining agreement with the owners. So far, so good. However, the agreement was only good for two years, and the moment it expired, NHLPA head Bob Goodenow got to work on a new one with National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman.
Both men were veterans of the 1992 strike, but for all their experience and savvy, all they could muster up was a six-year agreement that neither side was particularly thrilled with, and it took them 104 days to do it. This was more 10 ten times the length of the 1992 strike, and it resulted in the 1994 season starting in 1995. It also resulted in the loss of 36 of the season’s 84 games, as well as the All-Star game.
Pictured: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman smiles for photographers after his news conference 11 January in New York announcing that the union had accepted the owners latest contract, ending the 103-day lockout.
Some sports disputes have been so protracted that an entire season is lost while the principals hash out the details. The Major League Baseball strike of 1994, however, was so long at 232 days that it managed to cancel parts of two seasons, as well as all of the 1994 World Series. At issue were salary caps and revenue sharing, but as the strike dragged on , fans lost interest in all that and simply became angry that their beloved national pastime had been taken away from them.
An agreement was finally reached on March 31, 1995, but the players and owners had inflicted considerable damage upon themselves in the process. Approximately 940 games had been lost in the strike, including in the postseason, and it was estimated to have cost more than $800 million in ownership revenues and player salaries combined. Furthermore, some believe that it so damaged the sport that it has yet to fully regain its place as the national pastime.
Pictured: Fans hold up signs in protest of the baseball strike during a game between the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinios.
In the summer of 1995, the NBA suspended operations as opposing parties tried to reach a collective bargaining agreement. This dispute was unusual in that it wasn’t the players and the owners going at it. It was the players, the players’ union, the players’ agents and some league officials as well. The lockout lasted from July until September of 1995, which was well outside of the regular season, and so it affected no games.
As Houston Rockets representative Kenny Smith told the New York Times, the timing made it exactly the wrong moment to have a lockout. "It doesn't do anything to lock somebody out when nothing is going to be played anyway," he said. "No one gets paid in June. Everyone's in the Bahamas, Acapulco, whatever, playing golf. If you're going to lock us out, lock us out tonight. Stop the NBA finals. That's saying you mean business.”
Pictured: NBA Official David Jones and Orlando Magic Anfernee Hardaway pass a ball prior to their game with the New Jersey Nets 12 December in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Unlike the 1995 NBA lockout, the work stoppage that began on June 30, 1998 had a huge impact. It lasted for 204 days and scrubbed the season’s first three months, resulting in the loss of 32 games. It could have been worse — the entire season might have been cancelled had the players and owners not reached a final agreement one day before the deadline to do so. But the lockout had a negative impact on the game regardless.
The stoppage reinforced a widespread impression of athletes and owners as greedy and overpaid, a sentiment echoed by Washington Post sportswriter Tony Kornheiser who described it as a dispute "between tall millionaires and short millionaires.” Attendance at the games and television ratings dropped, and the salary issues that had inspired the dispute were barely resolved in the agreement that ended the strike. The same issues would resurface six years later and threaten a new lockout.
Pictured: NBA stars (L-R) Glen Rice, Allan Houston, Dominique Wilkins, Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing talk to the press about the NBA lockout situation during a news conference to announce 'The Game,' a Showtime-sponsored charity basketball game in 1998.
When the National Hockey League lockout of 1994 was resolved, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The exception was NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who predicted that earlier issues would resurface at some point in the future. He was right. In 2004 a new lockout loomed, and the main sticking point was salary caps for the players, just as it had been a decade earlier.
Both sides refused to back down from their financial demands, and on September 16, 2004, Bettman imposed a lockout that shut down the league for 310 days, a figure nearly three times the length of the 1994 stoppage, and one that represents the single longest lockout in the history of professional sports.
The entire season was lost as both sides negotiated, the first time in history that such a loss had occurred. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teams lost approximately $2 billion in revenue while players lost approximately $1 billion in salaries.
Pictured: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announces the cancellation of the 2004-05 season during a news conference on February 16, 2005 in New York City. The NHL had become the first North American professional league to cancel an entire season because of a labor dispute.